Dear Julie: Depend Responds

Last week I issued a Challenge to Depend and Poise to change their messaging to women from selling confidence via embracing incontinence to inspiring true confidence with messaging that captured the possibility that women could live free of incontinence. Depend wrote me back! Here is their response, and mine!

Dear Julie-

Thank you so much for initiating this discussion. The more incontinence and the disorders that cause it are discussed, the sooner we can break down the stigma that so often comes with it.

To give you a bit of background on the people who generously appeared in our Depend “Real Stories” videos, all of them have either pursued treatment and found it didn’t eliminate their leaks or decided that the treatment options for their specific condition were more challenging to endure than wearing protection.

We are committed to educating those with incontinence about all options, including pelvic floor physiotherapy, medications, surgeries and other methods. On and you’ll find that we have a series of educational materials that encourage people to seek out medical advice and treatment to see if they can minimize or even eliminate their bladder leaks.

Fortunately, the absorbent pads and undergarments that we manufacture meet our consumers’ needs when they’re suffering incontinence, whether temporary or permanent. Our goal is to give them more confidence to get out and enjoy their lives, even if they leak a little.

Again, thank you so much for initiating this conversation, Julie. We look forward to working closely with professionals like you to help those with incontinence get the help they need, in both therapeutic and practical ways.

Warm regards,
Thomas at Depend®

Dear Thomas,

I really appreciate your response. I acknowledge and agree that our conservative measures and even surgery are not enough to solve incontinence in some cases, and for those folks I am grateful that products such as yours exist. I also dug through your site and the Poise site after reading your response to understand your messaging better related to how to solve incontinence vs manage it. I recognize you have made efforts in this regard. I appreciate those efforts.

However,  I did have to dig. If I have to dig, so do others. It is the overall messaging that I think I hope would change. For example, I found info on Kegels (a proactive option) on the  Women’s (and Men’s) Incontinence Guide page under  “Living and Managing”. That verbiage sends a powerful message of acceptance. Instead, how about:  “Kicking Incontinence to the Curb” or “Treatment and Proactive Options”. That sends a very different message.

Expanding these options beyond Kegels is important too. Lots of women have tried these and have not had relief of their symptoms. Kegels have been our long standing go-to option for women, along with the message that you leak because your pelvic floor is weak. But a decade or so of research has helped us understand that the pelvic floor does not act alone to stop leaks, a system of muscles and pressures work together to control continence. So an exercise program that only targets the pelvic floor will not address the system, and is one of the issues that accounts for the frustration women feel with Kegels. Pelvic floor strength is only one piece of the puzzle, coordination of the pelvic floor with the rest of the system is critical and a missing piece for many women. I suspect that Kegels were a part of Starkeisha’s attempt at treatment (and Whoopee Goldberg’s, Kim Kardashian’s, and Kirstie Alley’s over on the Poise campaigns too). We have other tools to offer.  Updates to your information to reflect our evolving understanding of continence control would be another terrific step.

I noted on the Poise site that they have some notable folks on their expert panel, but a pelvic health physical therapist was not among them. Adding information from a pelvic health physical therapist would keep advances in conservative treatment more readily available to your shared communities. I did note that physical therapy was mentioned in some of your blogs and theirs. Awesome, we appreciate the nod! In your Support FAQ’s  in the Women’s (and Men’s) Incontinence Guide the first question is “Where can I learn more about incontinence” and lists some great information resources. Would you consider adding a question such as “Where can I learn more about my treatment options?” . The Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association has a great PT locator page on their site as I noted on my original blog. (Canadian equivalent here ).

Again, this is a messaging switch. Support can and should be active (or as you said therapeutic) and practical.

One woman who weighed in on my Facebook page discussion of the Challenge blog noted the positive messaging of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign as a template for changing the message on incontinence for women. A Real Confidence Campaign would be groundbreaking. You have taken some noteworthy steps, thanks for bringing them to our attention. How about a few more? We serve the same community and have the same goals. This issue is in the light more than ever, women are talking about it, celeb endorsements help reduce the stigma. But let’s take that momentum and move women and men toward concrete options for change, with products such as yours  supporting those steps towards recovery.

Thanks again for being willing to dialogue on this topic!

Julie Wiebe, PT


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22 thoughts on “Dear Julie: Depend Responds”

  1. Trish Brunelle says:

    Hi Julie
    This is awesome. I loved both his response and yours. Any dialogue is good dialogue and you are on the right track. Thanks from all of us who work in pelvic health!
    Trish Brunelle

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks Trish! I agree, I hope the dialogue continues. Thanks for lending your weight to the effort! Julie

  2. Marilyn Geiger says:

    Congratulations!!! Great response. Articulate, well thought out, instructive, and responsive. I bet you’ll hear from them again.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      I sure hope so! Julie

  3. Sherrie Palm says:

    Every positive step forward starts with one person initiating a dialogue-thank you for doing what you do so well Julie!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      I think you will appreciate this Sherrie… Let’s all build a road.

  4. Joanie Lehman, MPT NASM-CES says:

    Great blog, Julie. I appreciate your time and effort to spread the word. I am pleased that Poise / Depends responded and I hope you hear from them again… with the changes you suggested. Wouldn’t they be wise to ask you to sit on their board???

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks Joanie! I hope to hear from them again and would love to collaborate with them to bring change! I would love to hear some action steps! Julie

  5. Great dialog!

    Yes.. I teach workshops on the brains connection to the inner core and innermost layer of the pelvic floor.
    I would love to get this information out and let women know there ARE options. Leaking is never normal.. No matter how old we are.

    Thanks all!!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks for weighing in Kathleen! Julie

  6. Hi Julie,

    Your research and concise email elicited a response, great job! Have you been asked to serve on their board yet? : )

    The Women’s Health Campaign was launched today in digital form and it hits the LA Times tomorrow:

    Hopefully our efforts and increasing media attention will help women realize that they should not ‘pee’ during crossfit or while laughing/jumping on a bed (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills).

    Great job!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks for weighing in! I hope the LA Times Campaign is a big positive to help turn the tide. Educating women and having them demand a change in messaging, and raising their expectations for what is possible is really the only thing that will bring the kind of change we are hoping for! Julie

  7. Lori Yoder says:

    This is amazing. Kudos to you Julie and the company. We all know they could have filed her letter in file 13. I see this as GREAT progress.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      I agree, I was impressed that it didn’t go into the circular file, too! It’s a good start. Julie

  8. Nancy Suarez says:

    Written like a true professional, Julie….many heartfelt thanks for upholding the rest of the pelvic floor physical community!!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks for weighing in! Julie

  9. Ahlaam says:

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you for being so responsive towards improving professionals and communities knowledge with women’s health issues in particular how to gain continence. You set a good example for the rest to follow. You are a star to me.
    Once again thank you.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks Ahlaam!

  10. Marilynn Wiebe says:

    I enjoyed your professional response to the ‘big guys.’ You are very courageous for taking them on. Well done, I am proud of you!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Thanks! I appreciate it :)! Julie

  11. Susan DeLapp says:

    Thanks for your article, Julie. Having just had a neo-bladder replace my cancerous “real” bladder, I am a new participant in the disposable undergarment market. I do practice 2 different Keigel’s daily, and they are helping. It just takes one day at a time! Will be interested in further discussions and I definitely plan on using a PT with pelvic floor experience in the future!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Yes, please check in with a PT! There are PTs that specialize in post-cancer care. You can see if there is one in your area (search by practice specialty) on the APTA Section on Women’s Health PT locator . There is so much more than Kegels to help you!

      Take care, and all the best. Julie

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